My wife and I arrived at my in-laws today at the end of a 3 day couple's retreat away from the kids (3yr8m boy and 1yr10m boy). We were both very excited to see the kids again and wondered if they missed us at all.

My wife was ahead of me as my older son appeared. She crouched down to the ground with her arms wide open to greet him with a big hug, but he saw me behind and ran around her to hug me. The second didn't see me and ran to his mom immediately, then after hugging momentarily he noticed me, extricated himself from his mom, and ran to me. Both boys wanted to be in daddy's arms for the next 10 minutes.

My wife was heartbroken. Didn't her boys miss her at all? Do they even care about her? Would they be just as happy if she didn't even exist? These are the thoughts running through her head all day.

My wife is a great mom. She is a stay at home mother, she does crafts and plays with the kids all day. She does have to discipline as well (no hitting, but she does raise her voice semi-regularly). Is there some way to help my boys be as excited about their mom as they are about me? Does their behavior reflect on their mother's kindness and parenting ability in any way?

  • Not that it's relevant to the question, but I'm confused about these ages: (3yr18m boy and 1yr20m boy). I read that as 3 years and 18 months (which would be 4.5 years), etc. Thanks. Nov 30, 2015 at 3:50
  • Fixed it, had my math wrong. Thanks for pointing that out.
    – Cory Klein
    Nov 30, 2015 at 3:52
  • How much time do YOU have with the kids? Perhaps you are just rarer and so more "desirable"? Also, if mom is with them all day, chances are, she also keeps the stronger discipline. No sign of bad parenting on her side at all, just "all day there mom" vs "ohh, its daddy, he only is there in the evening!"
    – Layna
    Nov 30, 2015 at 9:33
  • 1
    I wouldn't care too much. Kids have phases like that, lasting from the tiniest timespan to several weeks. Nothing personal, they're just kids. You probably already had the same kind of reaction from them, don't you ? If not, you probably will have. Women will be women though, mine is usually much more affected than I am by such a behaviour, so basically you just need to be there and reassure her.
    – Laurent S.
    Nov 30, 2015 at 10:26
  • 1
    I don't want to open a new question, but my oldest 'phase' has lasted 3.5 years (from 12 month old and onwards). Little brother swings back and forth, oldest is unwavering in his preference for dad. (Both of us work full time).
    – Ida
    Dec 2, 2015 at 0:27

1 Answer 1


I'll partially piggy back off the suggestions made in the comments while adding a bit of my own.

These things do ebb and flow, it's very likely that your children are just at a stage where they want to spend more time with the father than mother. You can probably look back at the history of interactions with both children and identify other times where this was the case, in fact during the entire first year babies are focused on developing a deep relationship with their primary care-giver, usually their mother. A time the father may have noticed it was difficult to find some one-on-one time.

Onto the last two questions, Is there some way to help my boys be as excited about their mom as they are about me? Yes, you have quite a few options actually.

  • Switch mom for the day. While you take care of housework and discipline let mom just spend time with the kids in a more play oriented fashion.
  • Make it a group thing. Schedule regular time for fun as a family, says Parents adviser Lawrence Cohen, Ph.D., a child psychologist and author of Playful Parenting.

  • Talk up Mom while you're playing with the kids, says Parents adviser Kyle Pruett, M.D. at Yale Child Study Center.

And, Does their behavior reflect on their mother's kindness and parenting ability in any way? From research I've done previously on this subject, and other posters here seem to believe that this really isn't a reflection of her abilities, especially as you describe them. I did find this little gem,

In fact, when your child plays favorites, it's a sign that he feels close to you. "He's secure enough in your love to know that he can jilt you and still get a warm welcome back," explains Krista L. Swanson, Ph.D., a child psychologist at the Early Childhood Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in Los Angeles.

Both of these articles go a bit more in-depth and offer further guidance. The first page of this article is more relevant to this particular question. Mom.me article on healthy attachment. Parenting.com "Favoring one parent"

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